Teda people


Teda / Tubu / Toubou / Goran

50.000 Teda live between Tibesti Mountains and Ennedi Desert in northern Chad. Some groups live also in eastern Niger and southern Libya. Teda clans live nomadic or semi-nomadic lives moving from one oasis to another with their livestock.


Economy & Society

The Teda live either as nomadic herdsmen or as farmers near oases. Dates are a staple crop, and a variety of grains, legumes, and roots also are cultivated. Cattle, goats, donkeys, camels, and sheep are kept, and caravan trade is an important factor in the economy. In a few places, the Teda also mine salt and natron, a salt like substance which is essential in nearly all components of Teda life from medicinal purposes, as a mixture in chewing tobacco, preservation, tanning, soap production, textiles and for livestock.

The Teda live in camps that consist of extended family members. The oldest man in the family has authority until his death. Marriages involve the payment of a substantial bride-price, which consists of livestock. Polygamy is permitted, but rarely practiced. Most Teda communities have only a few hundred inhabitants. The more settled groups who live in the villages are not there for the whole year. Generally, they live in round huts with stone or mud walls. The huts have cone-shaped thatch roofs supported by a central post. The nomadic Teda often live in rectangular or oval-shaped tents that have wooden frames and mats made of palm leaves or animal skins. Sometimes, they use caves for shelter while looking for pasture.

Teda people have been socially stratified with an embedded caste system. The three strata have consisted of the freemen with a right to own property, the artisanal castes and the slaves.

The endogamous caste of Azza among Teda have the artisanal occupations, such as metal work, leather work, salt mining, well digging, dates farming, pottery and tailoring, and they have traditionally been despised and segregated by other strata of the Teda.

Marriage between a member of the Azza and a member from a different strata of the Teda people has been culturally unacceptable.

The lowest social strata were the slaves (Kamaja). Slaves entered Teda society from raids and warfare on other ethnic groups in lands to their south. All slaves were the property of their masters, their caste was endogamous, and their status was inherited by birth.

Rough sports and violence are a regular part of life among the Teda. Although the man is usually the family leader, the wife may beat him if he challenges her authority in certain matters. Women usually carry daggers, and the men do not interfere in a fight between two women.


Culture & Religion

Teda men wear loose-fitting draw-string pants under long-sleeved robes. Their clothing is usually white, and they often wear turbans or small Muslim caps. Teda women traditionally wear long wrap-around dresses and head coverings. Modesty requires that women cover their arms, legs, and heads. Jewellery is also an important part of the women's adornment. Although the Tedaare not required to wear veils, they often wear them for protection against the sun, dust, or cold weather.

The Teda are virtually all Muslim. However, prior to their conversion, they were Animistic. They converted to Islam in the 1800s, but only after almost 1000 years of contact with Arab Muslims. Their Animistic background, however, seems to have been incorporated into their Muslim practices.

Today, the Teda follow the Islamic calendar, including fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Both men and women faithfully say daily prayers, and more of them are now making pilgrimages to Mecca. Several Islamic schools have also been built in this region during the last century.


Source: Joan Riera - Anthropologist